Want Better Muscle Ups? Intensity vs. Quality

It’s time we had a talk about intensity. During this time of year, whether you’re doing the Open or are just acutely aware of the buildup leading into the Games, you are going to feel and see a lot of intensity at the gym. Is it bad? Not at all. Intensity has helped me compete at the highest levels by preparing me for the demands of my sport, promoting physiological adaptations, and building my confidence to expand my sense of self and abilities.

We all like to throw down and push ourselves from time to time. But like anything, too much intensity will take its toll:
Tired all day at work, with family, at home. Aches and pains in your joints from over use and under recovery. Loss of motivation in the gym or lack of inspiration in your training.Diminished sex drive – noooo! And body composition taking a turn for the worse.

We see an overdose of intensity when athletes try to accelerate their skill or strength development ahead of where they are currently at. The classic example: muscle ups in the Open.

You want to try for an Rx score, but you barely got your first muscle up a week ago, or like most out there, don’t even have one yet. So you spend the next week practicing them every day. Kipping aggressively, hoping and praying you get up over the bar or rings.
For the lucky few you get your first muscle up!!! Congrats.

Failing a Muscle Up at Regionals, 2012

However, in the process there were hundreds of failed reps. In both cases the shoulders and elbows were put under tremendous stress doing something intense in high volume. After the adrenaline and high of the success wears off, aches and pains will linger.

The balance to intensity is quality. When you respect your body’s capabilities as they are, and build strength from there, you can keep the enthusiasm for your training and build yourself to become better. Functional Bodybuilding is all about purposeful progressions from week to week, so you can acquire new skills safely and effectively.

Below we will take a look at a typical intensity-focused workout you might see this time of year vs. a Functional Bodybuilding workout you might find in Awaken Training Series, so you can compare the feeling for yourself:

Intensity Focus (typical training)

Back Squat – 5,5,5,5
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Death By Muscle Ups
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Max Reps in 12 Minutes
5 Thrusters 95/65lbs
5 Pull Ups
5 Calorie Row
10 Thrusters
10 Pull ups
10 Calories Row

…. continue to add 5 reps per round

Quality Focus through FBB:

A1. Back Squat @ 31X1*; 4-6reps; rest 60sec x 3
A2. Strict Pull Up @ 21X1; 3-5reps; rest 2mins x 3

B1. RNT Reverse Lunge; 30X1; 4-6/leg; rest 30sec between legs; rest 60sec before B2 x 3
B2Strict Muscle Up (banded variation for strength and skill acquisition); 31X1; 3-5reps; rest 90sec x 3

C. 5mins @ Controlled Effort:
5 KB Thrusters 53/35 per hand
5 Toes to Rings
10 Calorie Row
rest 3mins
5mins @ Controlled Effort:
Alternating DB Step Ups 20/16″ (40/25lbs per hand)
6 Ring Rows
Run 100m
Tempo refreshers here under “Reading the Workouts”

On the left, we have max efforts to see what your body can do under fatigue, with less emphasis on control or quality and high stress and lactic acid production.

On the right, you’ll find controlled efforts built around tempo and rep ranges, a pacing focus with purposeful increasesin intensity, and emphasis on quality of movement. Moderate stress will elicit adaptation but keep you coming back hungry to training tomorrow.

You can train year round with a quality focus and not only keep your body happy and healthy, but prepare you to bring the heat when the time for intensity is right. With 12 weeks of Awaken Training Series you can feel the difference for yourself – or take advantage of the bundle discount and set yourself up for an entire year. Registration is open April 1-8 until 5pm Pacific!